The fact that Capitol Hill now has a Korean restaurant is rather a thrill: There hasn't been one in central Seattle in years, if ever. (Some sites for this spicy cuisine exist on north Aurora and in the International District, and there's a larger array of spots in Tacoma.) Open only a few weeks, Kimchee Bistro in Capitol Hill's Broadway Alley has yet to develop a following, but it seems likely the place will be crowded soon; dishes here are well-detailed and very decent.
Bistro owner Sunny An (who also owns the Asian-themed, employees-only Cafe Manna at the central post office facility) has put together a 37-item menu of traditional Korean fare here, emphasizing scratch ingredients. Spicy soon doo boo (soft tofu soup, $7.99) arrives at the table in the throes of active boiling, though it soon settles—bright red, strong, and delicious, revealing bits of savory vegetables and other treats in its depths. All soups and hot pots, such as ar tang (cod eggs with assorted vegetables, $9.95), are served in heavy jade bowls, which are kept hot all day in the restaurant's oven.
Less spicy entrées include an amazingly nongreasy chap chae, which is lightly stir-fried clear yam noodles with vegetables and, if you choose, beef ($6.95). This dish is listed as an appetizer, but it's almost big enough as an entrée for two. Bibimbop ($7.99/$8.99) is lovely as a palette, with a circular, fanned array of blanched carrot strips, radish threads, and bean sprouts, served over rice with an egg on top. It's meant to be stirred up with a thick barbeque-ketchup-style sauce; this is the only sauce in sight at many Korean establishments because the dishes' flavors depend instead on broths and spices.
Kimchee soup ($7.99) looks enticing, as does pa juhn (green onion pancakes with seafood, $12.95) and gal bee (house short ribs, $8.99). But the triumph of this jewel box restaurant is its banchan, or cold, light side dishes. Though small, they balance the hot, strong flavors of the entrées. Recent banchan included homemade kimchee, deeply sweet and sour crunchy radish strips, potato salad from firm potato matchsticks and mayonnaise, and blanched sesame-oil bean sprouts.
Kimchee Bistro also carries Korean sake and an array of liquors ($6.95-$11.95). If you try no other new cooking all year, at least venture out and try the carefully made dishes here.